MATT BARLOW: Is this the end for Neymar with Brazil? At 30, he could still be at the top level when the next World Cup arrives in 2026 but he failed to deliver on the big stage again under the weight of a nation’s hopes
Brazil left Doha for the unknown. Boss Tite stepped down as planned and stalwart defenders Thiago Silva and Dani Alves accepted that their dream of winning the World Cup as players was over.
‘Who knows if in the future I will get the chance in another role,’ said Chelsea’s centre-half Silva.
Neymar called for some time to consider his decision. ‘My head is still hot and I am not thinking straight,’ said the Paris Saint-Germain forward after the exit.
Neymar’s future with Brazil is a serious doubt going forward after Tite’s team were eliminated from the World Cup in Qatar
‘To say it’s the end would be rushing myself but I don’t guarantee anything, either.’
At 30, Neymar could still be playing at the top level when the next World Cup arrives in the United States, Mexico and Canada in 2026 but he has carried the burden of expectation through his professional life and came to Qatar with great hopes that this could be his tournament.
He was struck by an ankle injury in the group stage, missing two games before scoring a brilliant opening goal during extra-time in Friday’s quarter-final against Croatia. The strike hauled him on to 77 goals for his country, level with Pele at the top of the Brazil charts.
The PSG star levelled Pele’s international goalscoring record for the Selecao with his injury-time goal
But the nation’s talisman would be left in tears when Brazil crashed out of the tournament on penalties
It seemed likely to be enough to see Brazil marching on to the semi-finals of this Qatar World Cup, but it proved to be not enough as Tite’s side conceded a late equaliser and then lost on penalties.
Having set out to win their first World Cup for 20 years, in the hope of dedicating the success to icon Pele, who is in hospital in ill health, they were instead consoled on Sunday by the 82-year-old legend.
‘I saw you grow,’ said Pele, in a message to Neymar on social media.
Defeat also likely marked veteran defenders Thiago Silva(left), and Dani Alves'(right) final international tournaments
‘I cheered for you every day and I can finally congratulate you for reaching my number of goals with Brazil. We both know that this is more than a figure. Our biggest duty as athletes is to inspire. Inspire our team-mates of today, the next generations and, above all, everyone who loves our sport.
‘Unfortunately, this is not the happiest day for us. My record was set almost 50 years ago and nobody managed to get near it until now. You got there, kid. That shows how great your achievement is.
‘Keep inspiring us. I will keep punching the air with joy for every goal you score as I did in every match I saw you on the pitch.’